Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A Word on the (Still Mythical) National Championship Game...

Two words, actually: Don't bother.

The so-called national championship game is a fraud. It's nothing of the sort. Why? Because the winner of the game is not guaranteed the so-called national championship, as has been the case two years running. Only the ESPN/coach's poll is contractually tied to the BCS. The AP poll is not, and in fact recently asked the BCS to stop using their survey. So what good is a "national championship game" that doesn't decide the national championship?

Of course, the BCS is a fraud as well. Even the name is a lie. "Bowl Championship Series" implies a Division 1-A college football tournament, a la "March Madness" in its basketball counterpart. But none of that is true. There's no "series," no true "championship" - although there are bowls. Seemingly dozens and dozens of them, and not one of them with the tiniest smidgen of meaning.

Bowls are one thing, and one thing only: exhibitions. They don't decide anything, so they don't mean anything. They're no different than the preseason "kickoff classics" and other such empty, made-for-TV events. Even the traditional bowls, like the Rose, aren't really any different. And two of the past three Rose Bowls have violated its once-closely held tradition of matching the champions of the Pac-10 and Big-10, the latter of which is really the Big-11 once you count Penn State, but given how badly they suck anymore, most probably don't.

The bowls linger because (1) they generate revenue and (2) they've been around forever. How such a non-system has hung around for nearly a century is another of life's imponderables. The BCS was supposed to lend some at least outward semblance of structure to them, but really, it was just a phony "compromise" designed to keep the pro-tournament forces stymied - the only thing at which the BCS has really ever been successful (well, that and generating even more revenue).

Meanwhile, the staggeringly greater mounds of cash that a tourny would bring remain untapped, imprisoned by a palace guard of excuses ranging from "scheduling conflicts" to laughably ersatz concerns about the schoolwork of "student-athletes." Perhaps when the NCAA and university presidents start turning down big-buck TV and radio network contracts in the "spirit of amateurism," or drop their pompous hypocrisy and start paying players as the de facto NFL minor-leaguers that they are, I might consider taking that compost seriously. In the mean time I remain a football fan who could be a huge follower of the college game if the entire exercise wasn't a protracted and calculated waste of my time.

In years of complaining and arguing about, and debating, this dispute, I have yet to hear a single argument from the other side that contains one scintilla of common sense. The best they ever manage to come up with is that the bowls should be preserved because "that's the way it's always been." The more typical riposte is that "it's good for the game to always have its champion in dispute."

My reply is always the same: Division 1-A college football is the only level of any team sport on the face of the Earth that does not determine its champion on the field, but in a ballot box.

Nearly a hundred years of college football "Floridas." No wonder I can't stand the bowl non-system.

It isn't original, but if they took the "C" out of "BCS," that would be a lot closer to the truth.